Gold & Silver Daily

Ed's Critical Reads

Apr 18, 2015

Core Inflation Jumps Most Since October Due to Rent, Healthcare Costs

Following February's big bounce back MoM, Consumer Prices in March rose 0.2% MoM (less than the expected 0.3% rise) but it is YoY that is the great news for Americans. CPI fell 0.1% YoY in March (below expectations of unchanged) which means Consumer Prices haven't risen YoY in 3 months. However, while this clear disinflationary signal is persistent, Core CPI continued to rise 1.8% from last year  (above the 1.7% consensus) driven by big jumps in the cost of shelter (thank you Fed) and healthcare (thank you Govt); which should send shivers through the risk-bulls as The Fed may be forced to pull rate hikes forward.

On an annual basis, there is now a huge divergence between Core and Headline CPI, mostly as a result of dropping energy prices impacting the headline data.

This longish commentary, with lots of charts and graphs, was posted on the Zero Hedge website at 8:43 a.m. EDT yesterday morning---and today's first offering is from Dan Lazicki.

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Stocks Slammed - Dow Tumbles 350 Points Into Red Year-to-Date

This tiny Zero Hedge article from yesterday consists of three charts---and although the Dow closed off its low tick, the fact that the the President's Working Group didn't show up to save the day on a Friday is a bad omen for next week.  But maybe they were there early enough to prevent a crash yesterday.  I guess we'll never know.

This story appeared on their website at 10:09 a.m. EDT on Friday morning---and it's the second offering in a row from Dan L.

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Well That's Never Happened Before - Exhibit 1

We have never, ever, seen the U.S. equity market so disconnected from underlying macro fundamentals.

As the chart shows, the rising stock market is shockingly divergent from the U.S. Macro picture (the greatest divergence ever). This has happened before (in 2006/7) but on a lesser scale, and did not end well.

This tiny story with a must view embedded chart, put in an appearance on the Zero Hedge website at 3:37 p.m. EDT yesterday afternoon---and it's definitely worth a look.  That's three in a row from Dan Lazicki.

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"We're All Frogs in Boiling Water" Santelli Says After Lacy Hunt Warns "This is Far From Over"

Global debt has expanded by $35 trillion since the credit crisis and as Lacy Hunt exclaims, "that's a net negative, debt is an increase in current consumption in exchange for a decline in future spending and we are not going to solve this problem by taking on more and more debt." Santelli notes that debt will actually keep growth "squashed down" and points out the low rates in Europe questioning the ability of The ECB's actions to save the economy which Hunt confirms as "longer-term rates are excellent economic indicators" and that is not a good sign for Europe. 

"This process is far from over," Hunt concludes, "rates will move irregularly lower and will remain depressed for several years."

Santelli sums up perfectly, "we're all frogs in boiling water," as we await the consequences of central planning.

This 3:29 minute CNBC video clip from 9 a.m. Friday morning is embedded in this Zero Hedge story from 4:35 p.m. EDT yesterday afternoon---and it's another news item courtesy of Dan Lazicki.  It's worth your while.

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UBS’s Weber, BlackRock’s Fink on liquidity crunch debate

This 4:22 minute video video interview with Maria Bartiromo hosting Axel Weber and Larry Fink was posted on the Internet site at 4:22 a.m. EDT yesterday morning---and the stories from Dan just keep on coming.  There's also more from Larry Fink and Maria linked here.  This CNBC video clip runs for 8:28 minutes---and Dan sent that our way as well.

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Delusional Keynesians Pushing Us Over a Cliff -- Mike Maloney

This 17:03 minute video presentation from Mike was posted on the Internet site back on Tuesday---and for length reason had to wait for today's column.  I thank Dan Rubock for bringing it to our attention.

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Why Schlumberger Will Fire 11,000

The announcement was simple and came as a part of Schlumberger Ltd.’s terrible first-quarter earnings announcement. The carnage of layoffs continues across the oil industry due to low crude prices.

Schlumberger chairman and CEO Paal Kibsgaard said: "In spite of the detailed preparations we made in the fourth quarter, the abruptness of the fall in activity, particularly in North America, required us to take additional actions during the quarter. These included the difficult decision to make a further reduction in our workforce of 11,000 employees, leading to a total reduction of about 15% compared to the peak of the third quarter of 2014."

This very interesting news item appeared on the Internet site at 6:32 a.m. EDT on Friday morning---and I thank Orlando, Florida reader Dennis Mong for sending it our way.  There was also a UPI article about this---and it's headlined "Schlumberger to lay off 11,000"---and I thank Roy Stephens for this one.

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Jim Rickards: Oil — The good, the bad and the ugly

Everyday Americans have good reason to celebrate the recent collapse in oil prices. This is the fastest, steepest decline in oil prices since the mid-1980s. Results are already showing up at the gas pump. The price of regular gasoline has collapsed from almost $4.00 a gallon to $1.99 a gallon in some places. For a driver who uses 50 gallons per week, that’s an extra $100 per week in your pocket; enough to buy a new dress or take your family out to a nice dinner. If that new low price sticks, the savings keep coming and it adds up to a $5,000 per year raise. Best of all, the government can’t tax the $5,000. If you got a pay raise, they would tax it, but if the cost of things you buy is lower they can’t tax the savings. What’s not to like? That’s the good news.

Economists assume this extra money in your pocket will immediately be spent. That extra spending might put some money in someone else’s pocket. For example, if you spend your $100 weekly savings from gasoline going out to dinner, you might tip the waiter $15, at which point the waiter has an extra $15, (maybe more if your neighbors are doing the same thing) and he can spend more, and so on. This is the famous “multiplier” effect at work, where an extra amount of spending leads to more spending by the recipients so that the total economic growth, what economists call “aggregate demand,” is higher than the initial spending. More good news.

At least that’s what you’ll hear on television.

When you look beneath the surface, you’ll see some things that are not so good are maybe even bad for your portfolio.

This short essay from Jim Rickards was posted on the Internet site yesterday sometime---and it's the first contribution of the day from Harold Jacobsen.

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Unsound Banking: Why Most of the World’s Banks Are Headed for Collapse

You’re likely thinking that a discussion of “sound banking” will be a bit boring. Well, banking should be boring. And we’re sure officials at central banks all over the world today—many of whom have trouble sleeping—wish it were.

This brief article will explain why the world’s banking system is unsound, and what differentiates a sound from an unsound bank. I suspect not one person in 1,000 actually understands the difference. As a result, the world’s economy is now based upon unsound banks dealing in unsound currencies. Both have degenerated considerably from their origins.

Modern banking emerged from the goldsmithing trade of the Middle Ages. Being a goldsmith required a working inventory of precious metal, and managing that inventory profitably required expertise in buying and selling metal and storing it securely. Those capacities segued easily into the business of lending and borrowing gold, which is to say the business of lending and borrowing money.

Most people today are only dimly aware that until the early 1930s, gold coins were used in everyday commerce by the general public. In addition, gold backed most national currencies at a fixed rate of convertibility. Banks were just another business—nothing special. They were distinguished from other enterprises only by the fact they stored, lent, and borrowed gold coins, not as a sideline but as a primary business. Bankers had become goldsmiths without the hammers.

This commentary by Doug Casey showed up on the Internet site yesterday---and I thank senior editor Nick Giambruno for bringing it to my attention, and now to yours.

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Doug Noland: Horrible Risk Versus Reward

In an interview, Mr. Bernanke said he was sensitive to the public’s anxieties about the ‘revolving door’ between Wall Street and Washington and chose to go to Citadel, in part, because it ‘is not regulated by the Federal Reserve and I won’t be doing lobbying of any sort.’ He added that he had been recruited by banks but declined their offers. ‘I wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest,’ he said. ‘I ruled out any firm that was regulated by the Federal Reserve.’”

I’m reminded of Willie Sutton’s response to why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.” I could only chuckle at the New York Magazine headline: “Helicopter Ben Makes it Rain – for Himself.” It’s absolutely laughable that the former Fed chair suggests part of his decision for hooking up with a hedge fund was his sensitivity to public anxieties about the “revolving door” between Wall Street and Washington.

I, at least, would rather see Bernanke working with a traditional regulated financial firm, although his compensation would surely be much less. Especially in this Bubble backdrop with the global leveraged speculating community playing such an integral role, it just doesn’t look good. In an era where public confidence in the Federal Reserve is so thin and vulnerable, why couldn’t Bernanke have just stuck with his post-Fed career of writing, teaching and a few lucrative dinner engagements? After all these years, I still miss Chairman Volcker.

Here's Doug's weekly Credit Bubble Bulletin from late yesterday evening---and I had to dig up myself, as reader U.D. was out wining and dining his girlfriend.

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Canada’s Political Mainstream Backs War in Ukraine

Canadians will go to the polls next October in the first national election since the Conservative Party won a majority government in 2011. There is intense concern among progressive people in the country about the prospects of the Conservatives winning another term in office.

The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is moving further and further to the right. It has aligned itself tightly with U.S. foreign policy, including being ‘holier than thou’ in its unconditional support of Israel. It joined the U.S.-led air war in Iraq six months ago and now it is joining the U.S. in expanding that to Syria. It has cemented Canada’s role as a leading climate vandal in the world. It has attacked civil and social rights across the board and is now deepening that attack with the proposed, ‘police-state Canada’ Bill C-51.

This leaves many Canadians favorable to the idea of an electoral and governing alliance between the two, large opposition parties in Parliament—the Liberal and New Democratic parties—in order to defeat the Conservatives. NDP leader Tom Mulcair says he is open to a governing coalition with the Liberals if neither party wins an electoral majority.

But on the increasingly dangerous issue in world politics—the war in eastern Ukraine and accompanying military threats and expansion of NATO in eastern Europe—there is an astonishing unanimity in the Canadian political and media establishment. NATO is embarked on a drive to weaken Russia, with all the risk and folly that entails—including a nuclear danger. The people and territory of Ukraine are being used as war proxies to get at Russia. Yet, there is nary a peep of disagreement in the Parliament in Ottawa.

This is an absolute must read for all Canadians---and once again I apologize profusely---and on bended knee---for the disgraceful and unforgivable behaviour of Prime Minister Stephen Harper et al in Ottawa.  My grandfather, who fought in France and Belgium in WWI, would be horrified if he could see how things have turned out.  This is a story that, for obvious reasons, had to wait for my Saturday column---and I thank Roy Stephens for sharing it with us.  It was posted on the Internet site on March 31.

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IMF tells regulators to brace for global 'liquidity shock'

An illusion of liquidity has beguiled financial markets across the world and spawned some of the worst excesses seen on Wall Street in modern times, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

Investors are borrowing money to buy shares on the U.S. stock market at a torrid pace and are resorting to the same sorts of financial engineering that preceded the last two financial crises.

"Margin debt as a percentage of market capitalisation remains higher than it was during the late-1990s stock market bubble. The increasing use of margin debt is occurring in an environment of declining liquidity," said the IMF in its Global Financial Stability Report.

"Lower market liquidity and higher market leverage in the U.S. system increase the risk of minor shocks being propagated and amplified into sharp price corrections," it said.

This must read Ambrose Evans-Pritchard commentary showed up on the Internet site on Wednesday afternoon BST---and I thank reader U.D. for passing it around last night.

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Greek 'day of reckoning' shakes stock markets

Fear that Greece could default on its debt and abandon the euro rattled global financial markets Friday.

News that negotiations between Greece and its international lenders are making little progress sent European stock markets down sharply, and the selling spread across the Atlantic. By the close of U.S. trading, stocks across industries were lower, with four of five stocks down. Investors shifted money into German government bonds, a perceived haven in troubled times.

In the U.S., disappointing first-quarter financial results from several big companies fed the selling. After American Express reported revenue that fell short of expectations, investors drove down its stock more than 4 percent.

"The day of reckoning" for Greece is fast approaching, said Uri Landesman, president of investment fund Platinum Partners. "People thought everyone would work it out, but if no one caves, there won't be a deal."

This AP story, filed from New York, appeared on the Internet site yesterday afternoon EDT---and I thank Dennis Mong for digging it up for us.

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Looming Greek 'crunch' threatens fresh global crisis, warns Osborne

George Osborne has warned that Greece's battle with Europe's creditor powers is nearing a "crunch" point and threatens to detonate a fresh global crisis if mishandled over the next days and weeks.

The Chancellor said the escalating crisis in Greece is now the biggest threat to the world economy and has become a haunting theme for finance ministers and central bankers meeting at the International Monetary Fund in Washington this week.

"The mood is notably more gloomy than at the last international gathering, and it is now clear to me that a misstep or a miscalculation by either side could easily return European economies to the kind of perilous situation we saw three or four years ago," he said.

"The crunch appears to be coming in May, and it would be a mistake to think that the UK would be immune. Of course, it would be the very worst moment for there to be any confusion about the direction of British of economic policy, or for a change of direction. We need resilience for moments like this," he said.

This is the second Ambrose Evans-Pritchard offering in today's column.  This one showed up on The Telegraph's website at 7:00 p.m. BST in London yesterday evening---and it's worth reading as well.  I thank Roy Stephens for sharing it with us.

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John Batchelor interviews Stephen F. Cohen on the current situation in the Ukraine

It would appear as if the Minsk2 agreement is failing all along the Donbass frontier at numerous locations with hundreds of incidents of shelling by heavy artillery, tanks and rockets.  These incidents have been progressively increasing for a week.  

It would be no coincidence that the rhetoric against Minsk2 and the increasing numbers of shelling transgressions by Kiev forces have triggered yet another geopolitical change that has grave implications for peace. This is the Russian sale of the S 300 anti aircraft missile system to Iran. All part of the deteriorating geopolitical position between East and West. The S-300 system, incidentally, is a very efficient one that may prove rather impervious to attacking aircraft - for use around nuclear reactors, for instance. This weapon system sale has been on hold as Russia has tried to find a diplomatic solution to the Iran/USA stalemate. And it follows that Moscow is no longer confident in finding any diplomatic solutions with Washington.

Cohen very accurately has pointed out that Russia has changed its economic and treaty relationships with other countries profoundly due to its standoff with Washington and the E.U., while Washington has done little and the E.U. has suffered greatly. The latest change is with Greece, and it remains to be seen if this will further weaken both NATO and the E.U. On the other hand, Canada has sent a military contingent (perhaps only medical training personal).

This 39:45 minute audio interview was posted on the Internet site on Tuesday---and I thank Larry Galearis for sending it our way.  It's definitely worth your while if you have the time---and the interest, which you should.

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Airlines Slash Routes to Moscow in Latest Sign of Russia's Growing Isolation

In 2012, British discount airline EasyJet beat Virgin Atlantic Airways in a fierce competition for the rights to fly from London's Gatwick to Moscow's Domodedovo airport, a route that became available when its former operator was swallowed up in a merger. British aviation regulators gave the nod to EasyJet, which hailed the decision as a milestone in its international development.

Now, EasyJet has scaled back its London-Moscow service, from two daily flights to only one in each direction. The move, which took effect in late January, "was in response to the reduction in demand to and from Russia in recent months," an airline spokeswoman says.

The British discounter is one of many airlines curtailing flights to Russia and shelving planned expansion there, as the number of Russians vacationing abroad has plummeted and fewer foreign businesspeople and tourists are visiting the country.

This very interesting story, with the usual negative propaganda twist, appeared on the Bloomberg website at 6:57 a.m. Denver time on Friday morning---and I thank reader "G Roberts" for sending it along.

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France sticks to its guns on shelved Mistral deliveries to Russia

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Thursday said France’s decision to suspend the delivery of two Mistral warships to Russia had not changed as the 1.2 billion-euro defence contract appeared to steadily sink.

“The issue has not evolved since the last announcements by the president,” Fabius told FRANCE 24 in referring to François Hollande’s decision in November to keep two Mistral-class helicopter carriers moored at the Saint Nazaire shipyard in western France indefinitely.

“We are at a stage where the decision [to fulfill the contract with Russia] is suspended,” said Fabius at a press conference in Paris.

This news item, which is certainly worth reading, put in an appearance on the Internet site on Thursday---and once again I thank Roy Stephens for sharing it with us.

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Watch out for yuan/SDR topic at IMF meeting -- Jim Rickards

Jim Rickards, chief global strategist at West Shore Funds, explains why the topic about including the yuan in SDR's basket could steal the limelight at upcoming IMF and World Bank meetings.

This 4:24 minute interview was conducted by Bernie Lo out of CNBC Hong Kong---and was posted on their Internet site on Thursday evening EDT.  It's worth watching.  I thank Harold Jacobsen for his second contribution of the day.

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Chinese Stocks Are Still Crashing

While the Chinese are long to bed, futures continue to trade on their exuberant stock market... and it's going south in a hurry. As we noted earlier, the catalyst appears to be a regulatory decision to increase the number of 'shortable' securities (and follow-through from PBOC's day prior demands of brokers to monitor margin trading). Both of these actions were taken as 'signals' that policymakers may be getting nervous about the ebullient wealth creation... Chinese stock futures are now down almost 7% - the 2nd biggest drop in 7 years.

This short must read Zero Hedge article was posted on their Internet site at 9:27 a.m. EDT yesterday morning---and doesn't bode well for the Monday open in the Far East.  My thanks go out to Dan Lazicki for finding it for us.

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Marc Faber: The Chinese Will Not Print Money

In this episode of China Money Podcast, guest Dr. Marc Faber, renowned investor and publisher of The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, speaks with our host Nina Xiang.

Dr. Faber shares his thoughts on why China's economic problems are solvable, explains the reasons behind his belief that China is likely to keep its currency stable, and rebukes the argument that capital may be flying out of China for a lack of confidence in the world's second largest economy.

Read an excerpt or watch an abbreviated video version of the interview. Be sure to listen to the full interview in the audio podcast.

This link contains a 7:24 minute video clip, along with a brief transcript, plus the entire 40:52 minute audio interview with Marc---so take your pick.  It was posted on the Internet site yesterday sometime---and I thank Nitin Agrawal for passing it around.

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Meet Fiery Cross Reef, China's Man-Made Military Island Outpost

Last week, we noted the hilarious irony in President Obama’s contention that China was “using its sheer size and muscle to force other countries into subordinate positions.” That of course, is a picture perfect description of US foreign policy and so the statement by the President is effectively an indictment of Washington’s own actions. 

Obama’s remarks were made in the context of China’s construction “activities” in the South China Sea where Beijing shares contested waters with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Essentially, China is building islands atop the Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly archipelago, which some believe will be used for military purposes.

This very interesting story, with lots of photos, showed up on the Zero Hedge website at 6:55 p.m. EDT on Friday evening---and it's another contribution from Dan Lazicki.  Here's a BBC story on the same issue headlined "China 'building runway in disputed South China Sea island'"---and it's courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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Somebody besides GATA calls attention to the Bank for International Settlements

Last Saturday, Zero Hedge published a long excerpt from what may be the most recent serious treatment of the Bank for International Settlements, the 2013 book "Tower of Basel: The Shadowy History of the Secret Bank That Runs the World" by Adam LeBor---and while it's worth reading, it may not convey much new to people who have been following GATA for more than a few months, since GATA often has called attention to the bank's crucial role in rigging the gold market on behalf of its member central banks.

That is, offensive to democracy as its secret operations are, the BIS is more the servant of its members than their master. The big problem is not the BIS but that the political systems of the bank's major members have been taken over by their domestic financial classes.

To recover its democracy each country will have to wage its own struggle. Satisfying as it might be, nuking Basel tonight wouldn't really accomplish much. The bankers quickly would find themselves another clubhouse somewhere else, equip it with the most sophisticated computers and market-rigging programs, and be back in business in a week, with the trading room of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York picking up the slack in the interim -- at least until some financial news organizations dared to attempt the sort of journalism they've long been leaving to Zero Hedge.

This absolute must read GATA posting, along with the embedded commentary on the BIS, appeared on the website a week ago---and for length reasons, had to wait for today's column.  Reader U.D. beat Chris Powell to this story by six hours and change---and I thank Chris for "all of the above" paragraphs of introduction.

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Sprott Money Weekly Wrap Up

Listen to Eric Sprott share his views on the ongoing debt drama in Greece, a continuously slack economic recovery, his opinion on World Gold Council predictions for Chinese gold demand, and global supply and demand for physical gold.

This 9:16 minute audio interview with Eric, hosted by Geoff Rutherford, appeared on the Internet site yesterday afternoon.

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U.S. must return rare double eagle gold coins to family

The U.S. government must return 10 exceptionally rare gold coins worth millions of dollars each to a Pennsylvania family from which the purloined coins were seized a decade ago, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

By a 2-1 vote, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said Joan Langbord and her sons Roy and David are the rightful owners of the double eagle $20 gold pieces, after the government ignored their claim to the coins and missed a deadline to seek their forfeiture.

"The government knew that it was obligated to bring a judicial civil forfeiture proceeding or to return the property, but refused," Circuit Judge Marjorie Rendell wrote. "Having failed to do so, it must return the Double Eagles to the Langbords."

Patricia Hartman, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger in Philadelphia, said: "We are weighing our options."

This very interesting Reuters article was picked up by the Internet site around 1 p.m. EDT yesterday---and I thank "Roger" for finding it for us.

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Gold is (Once Again) Money -- Jim Rickards

Only three major assets went up strongly in the past six months: U.S. dollars, Swiss francs and gold.

The dollar/gold correlation was most striking because they had been inversely correlated since 2011 with the dollar getting stronger and gold getting weaker. Suddenly, gold and dollars were gaining strength together against commodities, euros, yen, yuan and most other measures of wealth.

Using our causal inference models, our tentative conclusion is that gold is behaving like money again. This could be an early warning of a breakdown in the international monetary system as a result of persistent deflation and currency wars. Investors are moving to safe havens, and dollars, gold and Swiss francs are at the top of the list.

However, our intelligence collections and inferential models suggest that something even more profound may be going on. Russian and Chinese gold acquisition programs have been going on for years; that story is well known to our readers. But those acquisitions have now passed the point that Russia and China need to have a seat at the table in any new international monetary conference.

This must read commentary by Jim was posted on the Internet site yesterday---and I thank Dan Lazicki for his final offering in today's column.

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Is gold tide beginning to turn? -- Lawrence Williams

Gold prices may well, for the time being at least, be driven by ups and downs in U.S. data and Fed interest rate raising speculation, coupled with the occasional impact of some peculiar massive gold trades on the markets, but we do see these things changing as Asia becomes ever more involved in global gold price setting.  We are already seeing the start of this, and it is bound to grow so gold probably is at or near its bottom, with better things ahead.

But gold price growth may well continue to proceed at a far slower pace than the precious metal’s adherents would anticipate, although at some point in time an inflection point will be reached (perhaps triggered by some key event) and we should see a big price surge yet again.

As always the question remains as to when this might occur. For the time being its always, as Lewis Carroll had the White Queen say to Alice in ‘Through the Looking Glass’ – “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today” which Alice found most confusing saying “It must come sometimes to ‘jam today’” to which the White Queen demurred. But gold investors have to hope that indeed ‘jam today’ will come for the yellow metal and that that day will be soon at hand.

This interesting commentary by Lawrie---and brilliantly written closing paragraph---put in an appearance on the Internet site at 2:47 p.m. BST in London on their Friday afternoon, which was 9:47 a.m. EDT.

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Apr 17, 2015

Dollar Dump Sends Oil, Bonds and Stocks Surging

The sudden decision to buy EUR and dump USDs (after a slew of Fed speakers spewed their usual spew) has sparked a buy everything trade across markets as bonds, stocks, and crude are surging...

Of course the only things that weren't "surging" in price were gold and silver---and we know why that was the case.  This brief Zero Hedge piece, with some excellent charts embedded, were posted on their Internet site at 1:55 p.m. EDT Thursday afternoon---and today's first story is courtesy of Dan Lazicki.

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Rubin: There's 'Realistic Possibility' Stocks Are in a Bubble

You can add former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to the list of those concerned that bubbles might be building in financial markets.

"I don't have a personal view on whether we now have [market] excesses or not," he said at a conference in Washington this week, MarketWatch reports.

"But it certainly is a realistic possibility when you look at the U.S. stock market, which is near all-time highs, when you look at covenant-light and now non-covenant lending, [and] a vast increase in fixed-income [exchange-traded funds]."

Another person with a keen grasp of the obvious.  This article showed up on the Internet site at 9:00 a.m. EDT yesterday---and it's courtesy of West Virginia reader Elliot Simon.

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Weird Walmart plumbing problem shutting down stores across America, one in Brandon, Florida

Walmart customers can't understand what's plaguing the "plumbing problems" of Walmart stores from Brandon to California.

"Must be a major plumbing problem is all I can say," would-be customer Dale White said as security guards turned him away from the Supercenter on Brandon Boulevard in Brandon.

The retail chain announced Monday that five stores are shutting down - one in Brandon, two in Texas, one in Oklahoma and one in California - due to clogging and drainage problems.

The shutdown blindsided about 400 Brandon Walmart workers who must now find another store to transfer to or receive 60-days pay for the loss of their jobs.

However, 8 On Your Side has found no paperwork and no work done on the plumbing. According to Hillsborough County, Walmart didn't notify the county's permit department either. No one there has heard a peep from Walmart about any major repairs.

On Tuesday, 8 On Your Side stopped by the Walmart, and found no plumber in sight at the Brandon Supercenter, just hundreds of confused and concerned customers.

I had this rather odd story sent to me by a number of readers yesterday---and I must admit that even I don't know what to make of this.  I picked a story close to the source in Brandon, Florida.  It was posted on the Internet site on Wednesday afternoon---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it.

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Ex-JPMorgan Banker Charged With Stealing $20M From Clients

A former JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker was arrested Thursday on charges he stole $20 million from clients over a four-year period, using some of the money to make personal investments and pay a home loan.

Bail was set for Michael Oppenheim, 48, of Livingston, New Jersey, at $1 million by a magistrate judge who also required home detention and electronic monitoring.

Oppenheim's lawyer, Richard Gamburg, said his client would plead not guilty to charges including wire fraud, embezzlement, investment adviser fraud and securities fraud. He said he expected Oppenheim to be released Friday.

Mike Fusco, a JPMorgan spokesman, said the bank alerted authorities to the crimes and worked closely with officials. He said Oppenheim was a financial adviser at a Manhattan branch.

Criminality is pretty much the modus operandi at JPMorgan---and stories like this are now met with little more than a "what else is new?" look.  In actual fact, Jamie Dimon should be in an orange jump suit already.  This particular AP story appeared on the Internet site at 6:46 p.m. EDT yesterday---and it's the second offering of the day from Elliot Simon.

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Barron's: Buffett Avoids Taxes, But Obama Still Loves Him

Warren Buffett is the world's third richest man with a fortune estimated at $71 billion, yet he is able to exploit a loophole and pay a ridiculously small amount in federal taxes.

This week’s Barron’s sheds light on why Buffett has evaded the IRS’ snare for so long.

Buffett, chairman and CEO of the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, does not publicize his tax returns. But for the tax year 2010, he reportedly paid $6.9 million on taxable income of $39.8 million.

For many years, he boasted his tax rate was lower than his secretary’s, largely due to the fact he took so little income from Berkshire.

This interesting article put in an appearance on the Internet site at 10:48 a.m. EDT on Wednesday morning---and it's the third offering of the day from Elliot Simon.

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Wary of natural disaster, New York Fed bulks up in Chicago

The New York branch of the U.S. Federal Reserve, wary that a natural disaster or other eventuality could shut down its market operations as it approaches an interest rate hike, has added staff and bulked up its satellite office in Chicago.

Some market technicians have transferred from New York and others were hired at the office housed in the Chicago Fed, according to several people familiar with the build-out that began about two years ago, after Hurricane Sandy struck Manhattan.

Officials believe the Chicago staffers can now handle all of the market operations that are done daily out of the New York Fed, which is the U.S. central bank's main conduit to Wall Street.

Well, dear reader, if you believe that bulls hit story, I've still got that bridge that's looking for a good home.  I lifted this Reuters story from yesterday's edition of the King Report---and this is what Bill King had to say about it: "When the Fed had to save the stock market in 1987, it used the Major Market Index futures, which were traded on the CBOT.  Does the Fed want close proximity to the Chicago derivative exchanges for some reason? Is Yellen a closet Cubs fan? This move appears to create another Plunge Protection bunker."  That last reason is probably much closer to the truth.

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Ben Bernanke to Join World's Most Levered Hedge Fund: Chicago-Based HFT Powerhouse Citadel

Several years ago, Zero Hedge first, and to our knowledge only, reported that when it comes to unofficially executing trades in the equity market the New York Fed - through a slightly more than arms-length arrangement - does so using Chicago HFT powerhouse Citadel. In other words, while Citadel was instrumental in preserving the smooth, diagonal ramp in stocks since 2009 and igniting upward momentum just as everyone else stared to sell when the Markets Group of the New York Fed called, it was also paid handsomely: after all, nobody checks the Fed's broker commission statement. In fact according to some, indirect Fed compensation to what is the world's most leveraged hedge fund has been in the billions over the past decade.

Well, now it's payback time, and as The New York Times reported overnight, the Brookings Institution's favorite blogger, former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, has joined none other than Citadel as an advisor.

According to the NYT, "while Mr. Bernanke will remain a full-time fellow at the Brookings Institution, the new role represents his first somewhat regular job in the private sector since stepping down as Fed chairman in January 2014.  His role at Citadel was negotiated by Robert Barnett, the Washington super-lawyer who also negotiated a deal for his book, “The Courage to Act,” which Mr. Bernanke recently submitted to his editor and will be published in October."

This very interesting article was posted on the Zero Hedge Internet site at 6:37 a.m. EDT yesterday morning---and I thank Dan Lazicki for sending it our way.  There was another Zero Hedge story from Dan on this subject from yesterday as well---and it's headlined " 175,846,629,768 Reasons Why Ben Bernanke Joined Citadel".

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Another Former IMF Head Arrested: Rodrigo Rato Perp Walked In Madrid

As we reported earlier, the former chief of the IMF Rodrigo Rato, who was succeeded in 2007 by another scandalous figure, Dominique Strauss-Khan, was recently put under investigation by Spanish authorities for money-laundering, benefiting from a tax amnesty to repatriate previously undeclared offshore funds. This is in addition to at least one previous investigation into his role as chairman of Caja Madrid, the failed savings bank, and its successor Bankia.

And, unlike every single JPM banker pretty much ever, moments ago Rato became the second former IMF head in several years (following DSK), to be placed under arrest.

While it is notable that Rato apparently did not have enough cash with which to pay off the prosecuting judge and have the case against him dropped, one wonders what the odds are for Christine Lagarde to complete the trifecta of arrests of people who are in the one position which has become the most cursed in the New Paranormal world.

Because while the IMF was originally created to pay for "bail outs", in recent years its former heads are far more concerned with paying just the "bail."

This Zero Hedge article showed up on their Internet site at 3:21 p.m. EDT on Thursday afternoon---and it's another story courtesy of Dan Lazicki.

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Contagion Arrives: European Peripheral Bond Risk Soars

Just yesterday, German Finance Minister Schaeuble bent the truth, proclaiming that there was no sign of contagion from Grexit concerns. Today, it appears, he will be eating his words, as Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese bond spreads have exploded higher (up 15-30bps this week) amid the collapse of Greek sovereign and bank bonds.

It's not just Greek Sovereigns that are plunging, Greek Bank Bonds have collapsed...

It's not just Schaeuble that doesn't see any problems. Stan Druckenmiller, the Chairman and CEO of Duquesne Family Office, said that with regard Greece leaving the euro: "Draghi has QE at his disposal.  My guess is there won’t be contagion, but even if there is, he can contain it, and soon as market participants see that, you won’t get contagion."

All we need now is for some E.U. leader to claim "Grexit risk is contained," and we know trouble is ahead.

This is another Zero Hedge story from late yesterday morning EDT---and it's also courtesy of Dan L.  It's worth reading---and the charts are worth a look as well.

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Greece pushed a step closer to Grexit after IMF snub

Greece has been pushed a step closer to default and potential exit from the euro after one of its main lenders, the International Monetary Fund, all but ruled out allowing the cash-strapped country to delay repaying the €1bn (£722,000) due next month.

The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, said delaying the payments would be an unprecedented action that would only make the situation worse.

Speaking at the organisation’s spring meeting, she said: “Payment delays have not been granted by the board of the IMF in the last 30 years.”

Her intervention is likely to heighten fears that senior policymakers in the US and Europe are preparing for Greece to leave the eurozone.

This Greece-related story appeared on Internet site at 6:54 p.m. BST in London yesterday evening---and I thank Roy Stephens for sliding it into my in-box late last night Denver time.  Here's the Ambrose-Evans Pritchard spin on this from 7 p.m. EDT last night---midnight in London---and The Telegraph article is headlined "Grexit dangers mount as Greece's Yanis Varoufakis warns of 'liquidity asphyxiation'"---and it's also courtesy of Roy Stephens.

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For Greece All Bets Are (Literally) Off: Bookie Closes Grexit Market

Bookmakers William Hill have closed their markets on whether Greece will leave the Eurozone during 2015 and on which country would be first to leave the Eurozone.

'Greece had been heavily backed down to 1/5 to be the first to quit the Eurozone, and we'd also been shortening the odds for Greece to leave during 2015. They'd come down from 5/1 to 3/1.' said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe, 'It is now looking increasingly likely that they could begin the process of departing very shortly'

'No one is interested in backing Greece to stay in the Eurozone until the end of the year, so we decided to pull the plug on the markets until either the decision to leave is taken, or the crisis point passes and a plan is put in place enabling the country to remain in' added Sharpe.

This brief news item is also from the Zero Hedge website on Wednesday morning---and the first reader through the door with it was Dan Lazicki.

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Greece plans to raid coffers as creditors dash hopes of resolving cash crisis

Cash-strapped Greece is planning to resort to drastic measures to stay afloat, as the country's bail-out drama moves to Washington today.

Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is due to drum up support for his debt-stricken nation when he meets with President Obama at the White House later today.

The meeting with the world's most powerful leader comes as a desperate Athens could raid the country's pensions funds in order to continue paying out its social security bill.

The story appeared on the Internet site at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday evening BST---and my thanks go out to Roy Stephens for sharing it with us.

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Three Prominent Poroshenko Critics Killed in Kiev in Three Days

A prominent Ukrainian journalist, known for his critical views of Poroshenko's government was shot dead in Kiev on Thursday, in the latest series of suspicious deaths of opposition supporters.

Oles Buzina, 45, a supporter of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, was shot in the street. Buzina's body was found on the ground nearing his apartment building close to the city center. The head of Kiev’s police department Alexander Tereschuk said that a TT gun was allegedly used in the crime.

According to the neighbors, the journalist was probably shot while jogging. He was found wearing a sports outfit. The 45-year-old was shot by two men in masks who disappeared from the crime scene in a Ford Focus car with either Latvian or Belarusian number plate.

This story was posted on the website at 7:55 p.m. Moscow time on their Thursday evening, which as 12:55 p.m. EDT in Washington---and I thank Jim Skinner for sending it our way.  It's worth reading.

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E.U. hiring 'myth-busters' on Russian propaganda

The E.U. foreign service is recruiting a handful of new experts to help counter Russia’s anti-Western propaganda.

The job description, sent out on 20 March to E.U. states’ embassies in Brussels, says their task will be “correction and fact-checking of misinformation/myths”.

It will also involve “development and regular updating of E.U. ‘narrative’ via key messages/lines to take, articles, op-eds, factsheets and info-graphics, with an emphasis on communicating the benefits of the EaP”.

The new staff are to be Russian speakers and to do “analysis/monitoring of reporting on E.U. policies” in Russian language media.

How can this be???  This is so far beyond laughable that it has to be seen as pathetic desperation---and it just remains to be seen how total the failure of this exercise in futility will be.  It is, of course, courtesy of Roy Stephens.  It was filed from Brussels---and posted on the Internet site at 6:20 p.m. Europe time on Thursday evening, which was 12:20 p.m. EDT in New York.

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After Rescuing Ukraine, U.S. Taxpayers to Bail Out Iraq Next

Having generously (if not obliviously) stepped up to the plate to bail out Ukraine (with open-ended bond guarantees), U.S. taxpayers are opening their wallets again - this time for Iraq. As Reuters reports, cheap oil has ravage Iraq's state finances just as the government faces rising military spending from the war it is waging against ISIS; and so it has decided to issue $5 billion in international bonds. However, Iraq is considering other ways to cover its budget deficit, including asking the IMF (i.e. U.S. taxpayers) for relief funding and also requesting the controversial U.S. Export-Import Bank (U.S. Taxpayers) finance the purchase of 10 planes from Boeing Co, which cost the government $500 million.

Cheap oil is ravaging Iraq's state finances, just as the government faces rising military spending from the war it is waging against Islamic State militants. As Reuters reports, Iraqi Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the government was facing a budget deficit of $25 billion, out of a budget of approximately $100 billion. Iraq's 2015 budget is based on an oil price of $56 per barrel, he said.

Iraq has decided to issue $5 billion in international bonds and is negotiating the terms as one of several measures as it seeks to relieve the pressure of low oil prices on its finances.

Iraq is considering a number of other measures to cover its budget deficit, including asking the International Monetary Fund for relief funding of between $400 million and $700 million, Zebari said.

This news item appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 3:07 p.m. on Thursday afternoon EDT---and once again I thank Dan Lazicki for finding it for us.

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Iran’s negotiating side is 5+1 not U.S. Senate: Rouhani

President Hassan Rouhani says Iran’s negotiating side in the nuclear talks is the 5+1 group of world powers and not the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives.

He made the remarks during an address to an audience of people in Rasht, the capital of the northern province of Gilan, on Wednesday.

Rouhani stressed that whatever hardliners in the U.S. and the Senate, as well as the allies of the U.S. in the region say is of no concern to the Iranian nation and administration.

This article put in an appearance on the Tehran Times on Thursday local time---and it's the third contribution of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Afghan opium cultivation ‘grew 40-fold’ during US operation - Russia Security Council chief

Opium production in Afghanistan has “grown forty fold” in the 13 years of US Operation Enduring Freedom, according to the head of the Russian Security Council. The intervention has “exacerbated existing problems,” rather than solved them.

“Unfortunately, the failed policy of Washington did not solve, but on the contrary exacerbated, the existing problems,” Nikolai Patrushev has said while addressing the heads of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Security Council.

At the same time, the aims of introducing foreign military to Afghanistan, including the destruction of Al-Qaeda and Taliban, were not accomplished, he added.

According to Patrushev, Afghan extremists’ organizations benefit from lax law enforcement and use their positions in northern Afghanistan to enter neighboring countries in Central Asia.

This interesting story appeared on the Russia Today website on Wednesday afternoon Moscow time---and I thank Norman Willis for bringing it to our attention.  And even more disturbing story about the Afghanistan and opium---which was only hinted at in the above RT story---can be found linked here.

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Deal Reached on Fast-Track Authority for Obama on Pacific Trade Accord

Key congressional leaders agreed on Thursday on legislation to give President Obama special authority to finish negotiating one of the world’s largest trade accords, opening a rare battle that aligns the president with Republicans against a broad coalition of Democrats.

In what is sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama’s last 19 months in office, the “fast track” bill allowing the White House to pursue its planned Pacific trade deal also heralds a divisive fight within the Democratic Party, one that could spill into the 2016 presidential campaign.

With committee votes planned next week, liberal senators such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio are demanding to know Hillary Rodham Clinton’s position on the bill to give the president so-called trade promotion authority, or T.P.A.

Trade unions, environmentalists and Latino organizations — potent Democratic constituencies — quickly lined up in opposition, arguing that past trade pacts failed to deliver on their promise and that the latest effort would harm American workers.

This New York Times article, filed from Washington, appeared on their Internet site yesterday---and it's another offering from Roy Stephens.

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A Brief History of Currency Wars -- Jim Rickards

There have been three currency wars in the past one hundred years. Currency War I covered the period from 1921 to 1936. It really started with the Weimar hyperinflation. There was period of successive currency devaluation.

In 1921, Germany destroyed its currency. In 1925, France, Belgium and others did the same thing. What was going on at that time prior to World War I in 1914? For a long time before that, the world had been on what’s called the classical gold standard. If you had a balance of payments, your deficit, you paid for it in gold.

If you had a balance of payment surplus, you acquired gold. Gold was the regulator of expansion or contraction of individual economies. You had to be productive, pursue your comparative advantage and have a good business environment to actually get some gold in the system — or at least avoid losing the gold you had. It was a very stable system that promoted enormous growth and low inflation.

That system was torn up in 1914 because countries needed to print money to fight World War I. When World War I was over and the world entered the early 1920s, countries wanted to go back to the gold standard but they didn’t quite know how to do it. There was a conference in Genoa, Italy, in 1922 where the problem was discussed.

This slightly longish, but must read commentary from Jim appeared on the Internet site yesterday---and it's the final offering of the day from Dan Lazicki, for which I thank him on your behalf.

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IMF warns global financial risks are rising

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged countries to “safeguard” global financial stability following its report that financial risks are on the rise.

According to the IMF’s latest Global Financial Stability Report, since October 2014 financial risks have risen and rotated to parts of the financial system that are harder to assess.

It warned that risks had increased amid a “moderate and uneven” global economic recovery, with rates of inflation “too low” in many countries.

The IMF cited divergent growth and monetary policies as having increased tensions in global financial markets, resulting in “rapid and volatile moves” in exchange rates and interest rates over the past six months.

This very worthwhile article appeared on the Internet site yesterday sometime

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‘Three more banks’ to join ICE’s gold price benchmark

Three more banks are waiting in the wings to join ICE’s gold price benchmark, a well-informed source claimed, without disclosing their identities.

The banks will join JP Morgan Chase Bank, Scotiabank, HSBC, Société Générale, UBS, Barclays and Goldman Sachs in the LBMA Gold Price, which formally replaced the near-century-old London Gold Fix on March 20, bringing the number of participants to 10 once all the necessary formalities have been completed, the source said.

Many had been expecting some Chinese banks to be taking part in the new system when it launched, although some of the newer participants were reportedly struggling to meet both internal sign-offs and the paperwork required to join in time for the first auction.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), one of the biggest banks in the world and a major participant in the gold market, is widely believed to be one of those interested.

This gold-related news item originally appeared on the Internet site on Wednesday---and it found a home over at the Internet site yesterday at 2:59 p.m. BST.

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World Gold Council: Chinese Gold demand may shoot up 25 percent in coming years

According to the World Gold Council, gold demand in China, which overtook India as the largest user last year, will rise about 25 percent in the next four years as an increasing population gets wealthier.

Consumer demand will expand to at least 1,350 metric tonnes by 2017. Growth may be limited this year after 2013’s price decline spurred consumers to do more buying last year, it said. China accounted for about 28 percent of global usage last year, the council estimated in February, said the London-based World Gold Council.

One wonders from which central bank vaults this new gold demand will be coming from, because current physical demand exceeds world supply by a goodly bit already.  This short article, filed from Shanghai, appeared on the Internet site at 10:23 a.m. Friday morning India Standard Time---and it's definitely worth reading.

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Apr 16, 2015

U.S. Industrial Production Plunges By Most Since August 2012, Utility Output Drops Most in 9 Years

Mortgage apps tumble, Empire Fed slumps, and now Industrial Production plunges... Against expectations of a 0.3% drop MoM, U.S. Factory output was twice as bad at -0.6% - the worst since August 2012 (and almost worst since June 2009). This is the 4th miss in a row. What is even more stunning is that despite the coldest of cold winters that crashed the US economy, Utilities saw their output crash 5.9% - the most in 9 years (explained as follows - largely reversing a similarly-sized increase in February, which was related to unseasonably cold temperatures). Motor Vehicles saved the data from being a catastrophe with a 3.2% rise (following a 3.6% drop In Feb).

This brief Zero Hedge piece, with three excellent charts, appeared on their Internet site at 9:24 a.m. EDT on Wednesday morning---and I thank Dan Lazicki for today's first story.

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JP Morgan and Wells Fargo profits offer mixed picture of state of U.S. banks

Two of the US’s largest banks released first-quarter results on Tuesday and gave a mixed picture of the state of the banking industry.

JP Morgan Chase, the US’s largest bank by assets, announced profits had risen by 12% over the quarter, due in part to strong trading results. Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest bank by assets but the largest mortgage lender, announced a dip in profits as it struggled to make money in lending.

JP Morgan reported a profit of $5.91bn, up from a profit of $5.27bn in the same period of 2014. Revenue rose 4.1% to $24.82bn. The numbers were better than analysts had predicted.

The results were powered by a strong performance from the bank’s traditional Wall Street businesses. Trading revenue increased 9% to $5.67bn from the first quarter. The bank also benefitted from the pick-up in mergers and acquisitions. Merger advisory revenue rose 42% from a year ago.

This article showed up on Internet site at 3:25 p.m. BST on Tuesday afternoon, which was 11:25 a.m. EDT.  I found it in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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I believe we have a moral obligation to starve the beast -- Simon Black

On August 5, 1861, facing rapidly deteriorating economic conditions and a horrible defeat at Bull Run, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Revenue Act of 1861 into law.

It was the first time in US history that the federal government would charge an income tax on its citizens. But Lincoln felt that it was vital to fund what would become one of the most unconscionably costly conflicts in US history.

The original law in 1861 set a flat tax rate of 3% on incomes above $800.

(Using the gold price as a benchmark, this is equivalent to 42.26 ounces, or roughly $50,500 in today’s dollars. Not that there’s any inflation.)

The income tax was tweaked occasionally throughout the war, and it lasted for a few years afterwards to help fund reconstruction.

This commentary by Simon appeared on the Internet site yesterday, which was Tax Day in the U.S.

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Your taxes have nothing to do with the government's need for money -- GATA

As this is federal and state tax deadline day in the United States, it's worth being reminded by Beardsley Ruml, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and instigator of federal income tax withholding, that, in a fiat currency system, governments can create infinite money, that in doing so they are limited only by potential debasement of the currency, and that taxes thereby have nothing to do with raising revenue but rather are instruments of social policy and control.

Ruml's insightful observations were made in a speech he gave in May 1945 to the American Bar Association that was published in the January 1946 edition of the quarterly magazine American Affairs and headlined "Taxes for Revenue Are Obsolete."

"Final freedom from the domestic money market," Ruml wrote, "exists for every sovereign national state where there exists an institution which functions in the manner of a modern central bank and whose currency is not convertible into gold or into some other commodity. ..."

Ruml cautioned: "The public purpose which is served should never be obscured in a tax program under the mask of raising revenue."

This Tax Day commentary was posted on the Internet site yesterday---and both this article---and the Simon Black piece above are worth reading by all tax-paying citizens, American or otherwise.

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Borderline U.S. Recession Equals Euro Short Cover -- Jim Rickards

This video interview with Jim took place on the BoomBust show on Russia Today on Tuesday.  The interview starts at the 14:05 minute mark---and runs for 8 minutes.  I thank Harold Jacobsen for bringing it to our attention.

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A Powerful Weapon of Financial Warfare—The U.S. Treasury’s Kiss of Death

It’s an amazingly powerful weapon that only the U.S. government can wield—kicking anyone it doesn’t like out of the world’s U.S.-dollar-based financial system.

It’s a weapon foreign banks fear. A sound institution can be rendered insolvent at the flip of a switch that the U.S. government controls. It would be akin to an economic kiss of death. When applied to entire countries—such as the case with Iran—it’s like a nuclear attack on the country’s financial system.

That is because, thanks to the petrodollar regime, the U.S. dollar is still the world’s reserve currency, and that indirectly gives the US a choke hold on international trade.

For example, if a company in Italy wants to buy products made in India, the Indian seller probably will want to be paid in U.S. dollars. So the company in Italy first needs to purchase those dollars on the foreign exchange market. But it can’t do so without involving a bank that is permitted to operate in the U.S. And no such bank will cooperate if it finds that the Italian company is on any of Washington’s bad-boy lists.

This very worthwhile commentary appeared on the Internet site on Wednesday---and I thought it worth sharing.

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Obama Yields, Allowing Congress Say on Iran Nuclear Deal

The White House relented on Tuesday and said President Obama would sign a compromise bill giving Congress a voice on the proposed nuclear accord with Iran as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in rare unanimous agreement, moved the legislation to the full Senate for a vote.

An unusual alliance of Republican opponents of the nuclear deal and some of Mr. Obama’s strongest Democratic supporters demanded a congressional role as international negotiators work to turn this month’s nuclear framework into a final deal by June 30. White House officials insisted they extracted crucial last-minute concessions. Republicans — and many Democrats — said the president simply got overrun.

“We’re involved here. We have to be involved here,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the committee’s ranking Democrat, who served as a bridge between the White House and Republicans as they negotiated changes in the days before the committee’s vote on Tuesday. “Only Congress can change or permanently modify the sanctions regime.”

This news item, filed from Washington, put in an appearance on The New York Times website on Tuesday sometime---and it's the first contribution of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Cuba has shown us that sanctions don’t work – so why keep using them? -- Simon Jenkins

The days are long gone when Labour was torn apart by ban the bomb. For the party leader, Ed Miliband, the Trident missile is what HS2 is for David Cameron. It is political tokenism, machismo, image candy. Am I big on defence, Miliband said to an interviewer. “Hell, yes.” Look at my weapons.

For Britain (and France), nuclear bombs are to foreign policy what Olympics are to proper sport: chauvinism bereft of intellectual justification or value for money. But what of weapons that actually hurt people? This week the United States was still refusing to lift economic sanctions on Cuba, even while admitting their failure for half a century to bring down the Castro regime. Indeed, the effect of sanctions is Cuba’s chief tourism appeal.

At the same time America and Britain are resisting Iran’s demand for sanctions to be lifted following the inspection of its nuclear plants this summer. In the case of Russia, pressure is on for sanctions to be tightened in response to Putin’s constant provocations along his western flank. They are the “something” that can always “be done”.

Sanctions remain in place against North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Congo and other weak and vulnerable states, irrespective of whether they achieve any policy goal. They have become the default mode of western diplomacy, the acceptable face of aggression, a casual flick of contempt by the rich against the poor.

This commentary by Simon appeared on Internet site at 6:09 p.m. BST on their Wednesday afternoon---and it's definitely worth reading.  I thank South African reader B.V. for his first of two contributions to today's column.

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U.K. Deflation's not here yet - but that doesn't mean living costs aren't falling

Nothing to see here. The much heralded arrival of deflation failed to materialise this March. For a second month, there was no inflation, or deflation. We’re being told the U.K. is in ‘noflation’ instead.

The news might be something of a blessing for David Cameron, the Prime Minister, as the reading is the last we’ll see from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) before polls open in May.

It means the Conservatives will be spared potentially damaging headlines warning of the ills of negative inflation, which could corrupt its core message of economic competence.

Some commentators will highlight the unrounded figures, which showed the U.K. edged into deflationary territory by the slimmest of margins - with the CPI down 0.01pc in the period. But it’s nonsense to suggest that the ONS’ estimates can be this accurate.

This commentary showed up on the Internet site at 3:29 p.m. British Summer Time on Tuesday---and it's the second story in a row from reader B.V.

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German 10 Year Bond Yield Plunges to 10bps, Negative to 8 Years

German yields cratered today (as DAX flash-crashed into the close). 10Y yields are now at 10.5bps - record lows - and the entire German yield curve is now at negative rates to 8 year maturity. 3-Month German bills hit -42bps!! Must all be a signal of the economic success of Q€ right?

This tiny Zero Hedge story, with two must see charts, was posted on their website at 12:21 p.m. Wednesday afternoon EDT---and I thank Dan Lazicki for sending it our way.

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Germans downbeat on chances of Greek deal next week

Germany's finance minister said on Wednesday there was no prospect of the euro zone reaching a deal with Athens next week on economic reforms that would unlock bailout funds, potentially leaving Greece perilously short of money.

Both the Greek government and its creditors have said they need to reach at least an outline agreement at an April 24 meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Latvia's capital Riga.

But Athens, which has signaled it may not have enough cash to keep up payments to international creditors in May, has yet to produce a program of reforms that is deemed acceptable.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that no one expected a deal at the Riga meeting or in the coming weeks.

This Reuters article, co-filed from New York and Athens---showed up on the Internet site early yesterday afternoon---and it's courtesy of Orlando, Florida reader Dennis Mong.

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Greek banks tap more ELA funds in March as deposits drop

Greek banks made more use of so-called emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) in March, increasing their borrowing by 4.4 percent from the previous month as an outflow of deposits continued, Bank of Greece data showed on Wednesday.

Banks switched to using ELA, provided by the Greek central bank, in February after being cut off from the ECB's funding window after the new government stalled the country's bailout program - a condition for access to direct ECB funding.

Emergency funding from the Greek central bank, which is more costly than borrowing from the European Central Bank, rose to 68.51 billion euros ($72.6 billion) last month from 65.64 billion in February, the data showed.

Banks suffered deposit outflows of 24 billion euros over December to February as jitters over the government's standoff with euro zone partners on required reforms prompted savers to withdraw cash to stash at home or to send abroad.

This is another Reuters article, also filed from Athens---and it appeared on the Internet site around noon EDT on Wednesday---and it's also courtesy Dennis Mong.

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Ahead Of Varoufakis' Meeting With Famous Sovereign Bankruptcy Lawyer S&P Downgrades Greece To CCC+

To think it was just recently in September of last year when the S&P, seemingly unaware of the tragic reality facing Greece in just a few months (by reality we mean democratic elections which overthrew the previous regime which was merely a group of Troika picked technocrats), upgraded Greece to B and said "The upgrade reflects our view that risks to fiscal consolidation in Greece have abated."

Well, the risks have unabated, and two months after S&P flip-flopped and downgraded Greece back to B- on February 6, moments ago it downgraded it again, this time to triple hooks, aka the dreaded CCC+.

S&P said that without deep economic reform or further relief, S&P expects Greece’s debt, other financial commitments to be unsustainable. S&P views that Greece increasingly depends on favorable business, financial, and economic conditions to meet its financial commitments.

But, as City AM reports, the biggest news is that the Greek Finance Minister "will on Friday meet with infamous sovereign debt lawyer Lee Buchheit, who has helped numerous countries restructure their debt. Buchheit is a partner at top US law firm Cleary Gottlieb."

This Greece-related article was posted on the Zero Hedge website at 12:10 p.m. EDT yesterday afternoon.

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"Why do they keep shooting?" Violence spikes in East Ukraine, OSCE blames Kiev forces

The latest OSCE mission report on the Ukrainian conflict has recorded a spike in violence, with monitors largely blaming Kiev. However, RT’s correspondent says the shooting pales in comparison to what locals went through before the Minsk deal.

“By and large, the ceasefire is holding,” RT’s Murad Gazdiev reports from the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine. “The exchanges are a shadow of what they were before the Minsk deal took hold.”

Military action between the Ukrainian troops and the self-defense fighters has renewed in the vicinity of Shirokino, following intense strikes from Kiev’s military, the daily report by Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) stated on Tuesday.

On April 11, monitors witnessed “an escalation of hostilities, with a tank round being fired and small-arms and machine-gun fire exchange between forces in government-controlled [town of] Berdyansk and Shirokino [village].”

This Russia Today news item put in an appearance on their Internet site at 3:43 p.m. Moscow time on their Wednesday afternoon, which was 8:43 a.m. EDT in Washington.  I thank Jim Skinner for digging it up for us.

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U.S. Soldiers, Back in Iraq, Find Security Forces in Disrepair

Lt. Col. John Schwemmer is here for his sixth Iraq deployment. Maj. James Modlin is on his fourth. Sgt. Maj. Thomas Foos? “It’s so many, I would rather not say. Sir.

These soldiers are among 300 from the 5-73 Squadron of the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army, about half of them trainers, the rest support and force protection. Stationed at this old Iraqi military base 20 miles north of Baghdad, they are as close as it gets to American boots on the ground in Iraq.

Back now for the first time since the United States left in 2011, none of them thought they would be here again, let alone return to find the Iraqi Army they had once trained in such disrepair.

Colonel Schwemmer said he was stunned at the state in which he found the Iraqi soldiers when he arrived here. “It’s pretty incredible,” he said. “I was kind of surprised. What training did they have after we left?

Apparently, not much. The current, woeful state of the Iraqi military raises the question not so much of whether the Americans left too soon, but whether a new round of deployments for training will have any more effect than the last.

This essay was posted on The New York Times website on Wednesday---and my thanks go out to Ken Hurt for bringing it to our attention.

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Saudi Arabia Leads OPEC Oil Boom as U.S. Shale Growth Slows

Saudi Arabia pumped close to a record amount of crude oil last month, leading the biggest surge in OPEC output in almost four years just as the U.S. shale boom shows signs of slowing, the International Energy Agency said.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries may extend its biggest output gain since June 2011 into next month as recovery in Libya and Iraq adds to the Saudi increase, the IEA said. Average U.S. oil production of 12.6 million barrels a day in the first six months of 2015 will slide to 12.5 million by the fourth quarter as companies curb drilling, the agency said.

Oil prices are about 45 percent lower than a year ago as OPEC keeps output elevated in response to booming shale production and rising Russian supplies. While the U.S. will still pump an extra 710,000 barrels a day of oil this year, unprecedented reductions in drilling mean growth will be about 25 percent lower than the IEA projected in November, before OPEC embarked on its policy to defend market share.

“OPEC’s core Gulf producers -- led by Saudi Arabia -- appear to be sticking with their defense of market share,” the Paris-based adviser to 29 nations said in its monthly oil-market report. “Lower oil prices and cuts in capex are starting to take their toll” on U.S. production.

This oil-related news item appeared on the Bloomberg website at 2:00 a.m. Denver time on Wednesday morning---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for digging it up for us.

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The Collapse of the Petrodollar: Oil Exporters Are Dumping U.S. Assets at a Record Pace

Back in November we chronicled the (quiet) death of the Petrodollar, the system that has buttressed USD hegemony for decades by ensuring that oil producers recycled their dollar proceeds into still more USD assets creating a very convenient (if your printing press mints dollars) self-fulfilling prophecy that has effectively underwritten the dollar’s reserve status in the post WWII era. Here’s what we said last year:

Two years ago, in hushed tones at first, then ever louder, the financial world began discussing that which shall never be discussed in polite company - the end of the system that according to many has framed and facilitated the US Dollar's reserve currency status: the Petrodollar, or the world in which oil export countries would recycle the dollars they received in exchange for their oil exports, by purchasing more USD-denominated assets, boosting the financial strength of the reserve currency, leading to even higher asset prices and even more USD-denominated purchases, and so forth, in a virtuous (especially if one held U.S.-denominated assets and printed U.S. currency) loop...

Few would have believed that the Petrodollar did indeed quietly die, although ironically, without much input from either Russia or China, and paradoxically, mostly as a result of the actions of none other than the Fed itself, with its strong dollar policy, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia too, which by glutting the world with crude, first intended to crush Putin, and subsequently, to take out the US crude cost-curve, may have Plaxico'ed both itself, and its closest Petrodollar trading partner, the U.S. of A.

As Reuters reports, for the first time in almost two decades, energy-exporting countries are set to pull their "petrodollars" out of world markets this year.

This very interesting Zero Hedge piece was posted on their Internet site with a time-line of 10:42 p.m. last night EDT---and it has obviously been edited, because Dan Lazicki sent it to me six hours before that.

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Stanley Druckenmiller Bullish Chinese Equities and Oil and Doesn’t Expect Rate Cut Anytime Soon

The economy appears to be full of surprises, according to billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller. He has one of the best long-term track records in money management and he’s planning for the unexpected.

Most investors predict the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in September, after keeping them near zero for six years. But Druckenmiller rejects that forecast.

I have no confidence whatsoever that we’ll see a rate hike in September or December,” says Druckenmiller, who is worth $4.4 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

And there are other surprises. He expects oil prices will rise and the Chinese will be smiling with an improving economy. Chinese leaders are forecasting growth this year of 7 percent. That’s the lowest in 7 years, but the Shanghai Composite Index has doubled in the last 12 months as Chinese stocks have soared.

This item appeared on the Zero Hedge website at 4:20 p.m. EDT---and it's the final contribution of the day from Dan Lazicki, for which I thank him.

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China accepts 57 founding members for new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank finalized a list of 57 founding member states on Wednesday.

The announcement came after China accepted the last group of nations that includes Sweden, Israel, Poland and South Africa, reported The South China Morning Post.

Founding members have the right to establish the rules for the bank's activities. They hold other privileges that will not be available to countries that may opt to join the bank at a later point.

The United States and Japan have abstained from joining the AIIB, but South Korea, a key U.S. ally in the region, has agreed to join as a founding member along with Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain, France and Germany.

This UPI news story, filed from Beijing, appeared on their website yesterday---and it's worth reading.  I thank Roy Stephens for finding it for us.

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The Gold Chronicles: April 9, 2015 Interview with Jim Rickards

This 56:08 minute audio interview covers the entire range of topics that Jim always spends time on and, as usual, his comments regarding gold come towards the end.

As the headline says, the interview was conducted on April 9---and was posted on the Internet site yesterday.  I thank Harold Jacobsen for sending it our way.

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Asian demand turns Massachusetts into major gold exporter

Massachusetts' top export is not sleek medical devices, cutting-edge machinery, or life-saving pharmaceuticals. It is something more intriguing: gold.

In a state devoid of gold mines, Massachusetts exported nearly $2 billion in gold last year to places such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Hong Kong, according to, a Leverett trade research group. And these were not paper transactions but 62,500 pounds of the glittery metal -- roughly the weight of a herd of more than two dozen rhinoceros.

But exactly who is exporting this gold has stumped even specialists studying the Massachusetts economy, who can talk knowledgeably about almost any product that leaves the state, from semiconductors to seafood to colon cancer tests.

As it turns out, much of the gold leaving the state appears to be just passing through. In 2014, Massachusetts was not only the nation's fifth-largest gold exporter but also its fourth-largest importer, accepting about $1.5 billion from countries such as Canada, Colombia, and Mexico.

This interesting gold-related story put in an appearance on the Internet site on Tuesday---and I found it embedded in a GATA release yesterday.

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Record dive recovers $50 million in wartime silver from ocean floor

In the deepest salvage operation in history, a British-led team has recovered a $50 million (£34 million, €47 million) trove of coins that has lain on the seabed since the steamship carrying them from Bombay to England was sunk in 1942.

The S.S. City of Cairo was torpedoed 480 miles south of St. Helena by a German U-boat and sank to 5,150 meters. Its precious cargo -- 100 tonnes of silver coins -- belonged to HM Treasury. The silver rupees had been called in by London to help fund the war effort.

But they never made it. The steamship's tall plume of smoke was spotted by a U-boat on 6 November 1942 and it was torpedoed.

Ten minutes later, amid efforts to abandon ship, the City of Cairo was hit with a second torpedo which sealed its fate.

The ship and its cargo was presumed lost until 2011, when a team led by British salvage expert John Kingsford located an unnatural object among the ridges and canyons of their South Atlantic search area.

This very interesting article showed up on the Internet site yesterday---and it's another story I found posted on the Internet site.

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John Embry Interviewed on Radio

This 13:17 minute audio interview with John appeared on the website yesterday sometime---and I thank reader Dennis Meredith for bringing it to my attention---and now to yours.

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LSE’s Lord Desai Warns: Gold-Backed SDR Is Quite Likely to Happen

As many are increasingly coming to terms with the ‘obvious failure of fiat currency’, the inevitable question arises “what next?” Earlier this year, we discussed the possibility of a Chinese- or Russian-currency backed by gold, amid the increasing calls (domestically and abroad) for an end to USD Reserve hegemony; but this weekend, as Bloomberg reports, Lord Meghnad Desai, chairman of The Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, stated that IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR) should contain some gold to help stabilize the currency.

As Bloomberg reports,

A bit of gold” could help stabilize SDRs, Lord Meghnad Desai, chairman of Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, says at precious metals conference in Dubai."

We could ask that gold be nominated as part of the SDR. That is one thing I think is quite likely to happen

This will be easier if China increases its official gold holdings.

A subject near and dear to Jim Rickards' heart.  This absolute must read article, which was originally posted on Zero Hedge, appeared on the Internet site on Tuesday sometime---and I found it on the Sharps Pixley website yesterday.

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Apr 15, 2015

Retail Sales Miss For 4th Month in a Row: First Time Since Lehman

After 3 months of missed expectations and the first consecutive drop in retail sales since Lehman, retail sales rose 0.9% in March (missing expectations of +1.1%), following a revised 0.5% drop in February. While the 0.9% rise is the biggest since March last year, this is now the worst streak of missed expectations in retail sales since 2008/9. Ex-Autos, retail sales also missed expectations (rising just 0.4% vs 0.7% expected).

This is the worst March YoY growth in retail sales (control group) since 2009...

This chart-filled Zero Hedge piece appeared on their Internet site at 8:35 a.m. EDT on Tuesday morning---and today's first story is courtesy of Dan Lazicki.

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Small Business Optimism Plunges to 9-Month Lows as Hiring Plans Tumble

Remember back at the turn of the year when NFIB Small Business Optimism was surging and the mainstream media proclaimed that jobs were coming back thanks to small business, and Obama stated "the shadow of crisis is behind us." Well, if March's Small Business Optimism index is to be believed... it's not. At 95.2 (missing expectations for the 3rd month in a row), this is the least optimistic small businesses have been in 9 months. Worse still, all those jobs that were going to be created by this optimism.  Hiring Plans dropped to 6-month lows.

This is another article from the Zero Hedge Internet site yesterday morning---and it's very much on the tiny side, with two embedded must see charts.  It's the second offering in a row from Dan Lazicki.

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U.S. Q1 GDP Expectations Are Crashing

In just six short months, expectations for U.S. economic growth in Q1 2015 has been slashed by more than half (from 'trend' 3% to a mere 1.4% growth this week). While consensus is still well above the Atlanta Fed's 0.1% forecast, the sell-side is rapidly being forced to admit it's not just the weather...

GDP growth is collapsing---and the bounces in forward earnings and U.S. macro data are stalling once again...

This is another brief Zero Hedge piece from Dan Lazicki.  This one contains three charts---and they're definitely worth a look.  They appeared on their website at 2:30 p.m. EDT yesterday afternoon.

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The Strong Dollar Could Turn on a Dime -- Jim Rickards

Today’s currency war started in 2010. My first book, Currency Wars came out a little bit after that. One of the points that I made in the book is that the world is not always in a currency war but when we are, they can last for a very long time. They can last for five, ten, or even fifteen years — sometimes longer.

It’s really not a surprise that here we are in 2015 talking about currency wars because it’s the same currency war. A lot of what you read or see on the TV will be some policy move by, let’s say, Japan, to weaken the yen. And reporters will say: “There’s a currency war going on”, or “There’s a new currency war.” I just roll my eyes a little bit and think to myself, “No, this is the same currency war; it’s just a new phase or new battle.”

Currency wars have a lot of explanatory power — in fact, they’re one of the most important things going on in economics today. I fully expect that a year from now, we’ll still be talking about it.

This commentary by Jim showed up on the Internet site on Monday---and I thank West Virginia reader Elliot Simon for sharing it with us.

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Ackman Says Student Loans Are the Biggest Risk in the Credit Market

Bill Ackman says the biggest risk in the credit market is student loans.

“If you think about the trillion dollars of student loans we have outstanding, there’s no way students are going to pay it back,” Ackman, who runs $20 billion Pershing Square Capital Management, said today at 13D Monitor’s Active-Passive Investor Summit in New York.

The balance of student loans outstanding in the U.S. -- also including private loans without government guarantees -- swelled to $1.3 trillion as of the second quarter 2014, based on data released by the Federal Reserve in October. The rising level has prompted investors and government officials to draw parallels to the subprime mortgage market before housing collapsed starting in 2006.

About $100 billion of federal student loans are in default, 9 percent of outstanding balances, according to a Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee update on student lending trends released in November.

This Bloomberg news item put in an appearance on their Internet site at 3:41 p.m. EDT Denver time on Monday afternoon---and it's the second offering in a row from Elliot Simon.

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IMF fears 'cascade' of woes as Fed crunch nears

The United States is poised to raise rates much more sharply than markets expect, risking a potential storm for global asset prices and a dollar shock for much of the developing world, the International Monetary Fund has warned.

The IMF fears a "cascade of disruptive adjustments" as the US Federal Reserve finally pulls the trigger for the first time in eight years, ending an era of cheap and abundant dollar liquidity for the international system.

The Fed's long-feared inflexion point is doubly treacherous because investors seem ill-prepared for what lies ahead, and levels of dollar debt outside the US have reached an unprecedented extreme. The Fund said future contracts are pricing in a "much slower" pace of monetary tightening than the Fed itself is forecasting.

This Ambrose Evans-Pritchard offering appeared on The Telegraph's website at 4:19 p.m. BST yesterday afternoon---and it's the first contribution of the day from Roy Stephens.

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Florida Ex-Senator Pursues Claims of Saudi Ties to 9/11 Attacks

Mr. Graham, 78, a two-term governor of Florida and three-term senator who left Capitol Hill in 2005, says he will not relent in his efforts to force the government to make public a secret section of a congressional review he helped write — one that, by many accounts, implicates Saudi citizens in helping the hijackers.

“No. 1, I think the American people deserve to know the truth of what has happened in their name,” said Mr. Graham, who was a co-chairman of the 2002 joint congressional inquiry into the terrorist attacks. “No. 2 is justice for these family members who have suffered such loss and thus far have been frustrated largely by the U.S. government in their efforts to get some compensation.”

He also says national security implications are at stake, suggesting that since Saudi officials were not held accountable for Sept. 11 they have not been restrained in backing a spread of Islamic extremism that threatens United States interests. Saudi leaders have long denied any connection to Sept. 11.

The "official" version of 9/11---the U.S. government fairy story that just won't go away---and for very good reason, as intelligent people keep asking embarrassing questions that obviously have answers that are equally as embarrassing.  This essay appeared on The New York Times website [of all places] on Monday---and is definitely worth reading.  I found it in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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IMF: oil price collapse will cripple North Sea producers

Britain's oil industry faces a deep and long-lasting crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund, which said the collapse in oil prices would stifle investment and hit production at a much faster pace than other countries.

Analysis by the IMF and Rystad Energy showed North Sea oil producers would be among the hardest hit by the slump in prices because huge operating costs meant they could not absorb the decline as easily as countries such as Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

"Canada, the North Sea, and the United Kingdom are among the most expensive places to operate oil fields. As a result, the oil price slump will affect production in those locations earlier and more intensely than in other locations," the IMF said in its World Economic Outlook.

This article was posted on the Internet site at 2:14 p.m. BST yesterday afternoon, which was 9:14 a.m. in Washington.  I thank South African reader B.V. for sending it our way.

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Banks Across Europe Pay Borrowers to Buy Homes

Back in January we asked the following: “who will be the first to offer a negative rate mortgage?” Soon thereafter we discovered that in fact, this NIRP-inspired aberration already existed in Denmark where Nordea Credit was offering to pay borrowers to purchase a house prompting us to make the following assessment: And just like that, first in Denmark, and soon everywhere else in Europe, a situation has now emerged where savers who pay the bank to hold their cash courtesy of negative deposit rates, are directly funding the negative interest rate paid to those who wish to take out debt. In fact, the more debt the greater the saver-subsidized windfall.

That would turn out to prove rather prescient because as The Wall Street Journal reports, this bizarre characteristic of the new paranormal is spreading throughout Europe on the back of Mario Draghi’s trillion-euro adventure in debt monetization land.

"Tumbling interest rates in Europe have put some banks in an inconceivable position: owing money on loans to borrowers."

This is insanity---and it won't last.  Reader B.V. found this story on the Zero Hedge website yesterday---and it was posted there at 10:55 a.m. EDT Tuesday morning.

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Varoufakis sets up date with Obama to break Greece's debt stalemate

Greece's finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is due to meet President Barack Obama on Thursday, in a sign that Athens is appealing to the highest levels of international diplomacy to secure its future in the eurozone.

Mr Obama has previously indicated his support for the Leftist government, calling for a fast and equitable solution to the country's debt crisis.

"You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression," the U.S. president said in February following Syriza's election victory.

The visit comes amidst a growing stalemate between the Greek government and eurozone creditors, with officials at the International Monetary Fund privately voicing doubts about the country's continued membership of the eurozone.

According to reports in Greek media, Poul Thomsen, the IMF's Europe director told his executive board that negotiations were "not working" and he could not envisage a successful conclusion to the country's current bail-out.

This commentary showed up on the Internet site at 4:25 p.m. BST yesterday afternoon---and it's the third contribution in a row from reader B.V.

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Foreign ministers demand fighting end in east Ukraine

Foreign ministers from Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine called for an end to the renewed heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine following tough talks in Berlin on Monday.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters the talks had been “at times very controversial” but said all participants agreed there was no alternative to the ceasefire agreement signed in the Belarusian capital Minsk in February.

We need to ensure that the ceasefire is adhered to far more strongly as fully as possible,” Steinmeier said.

The talks took place amid a sharp spike in hostilities in eastern Ukraine over the weekend. On Monday one Ukrainian serviceman was killed and six were wounded in rebel-held territories.

This Reuters news item was posted on the Internet site yesterday---and I thank Roy Stephens for sending it our way.

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Russia’s seat in G8 ‘hinges’ on resolution of Ukraine conflict – German FM

Despite intense diplomatic efforts on the part of Moscow to find a political solution to the Ukraine crisis, G7 leaders are not yet ready to welcome Russia back at the discussion table, German FM said, insisting on further steps to deescalate the crisis.

“I wish for Russia to return to the G8 nations but the way to get there hinges on its assistance and effort to put an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said as the G7 (former G8) foreign ministers began to arrive in Lubeck.

Speaking at an event with German students, Steinmeier said Russia’s participation is vital for solving a variety of international problems. Making it clear that Germany does not wish Russia to be excluded indefinitely, the minister also warned against further isolating Russia.

“I have no interest in Russia being permanently isolated – we know from history that someone who is isolated can develop more dangerously than someone who is not,” he said.

This story put in an appearance on the Russia Today Internet site at 20 minutes after midnight Wednesday morning Moscow time, which was 5:20 p.m. EDT yesterday afternoon.

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‘Useless and expensive’ - Russian MP presses for PACE exit

A senior lawmaker has suggested Russia quits the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), and instead donate the multi-million annual fee paid to this organization to international groups that don’t show anti-Russian bias.

Today PACE is one of the most useless organizations and even people in Strasbourg where it is located are oblivious of its existence. I am sure that 98 percent of Europeans have never heard about it,” the head of the State Duma committee for education, Vyacheslav Nikonov, told popular Russian daily Izvestia.

It is just an assembly of lawmakers with inclinations towards rights protection who decide absolutely nothing, but who always start up their anti-Russian wailing. I cannot understand what we are still doing there,” the MP added.

This interesting article showed up on the Russia Today website at 10:37 a.m. Moscow time on their Tuesday morning---and I thank Roy Stephens once again for sending it our way.

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China’s Crude Imports Slow to 4-Month Low as Storage Tanks Fill

China’s record pace of crude imports is easing as its refiners fill commercial stockpiles and new tanks for holding emergency supplies remain under construction.

Overseas crude purchases totaled 26.81 million metric tons in March, data released on the website of the General Administration of Customs in Beijing showed on Monday. That’s equivalent to 6.34 million barrels a day, down 5.2 percent from February and the slowest pace since November.

China accelerated its crude imports last year amid an almost 50 percent collapse in benchmark prices and its buying is now slowing just as the global market struggles to sustain a recovery. Refiners including PetroChina Co. have filled more than half of their commercial storage capacity, according to ICIS China, a Shanghai-based commodities researcher.

“China’s crude stockpiling needs have waned with record buying in December,” Jean Zou, an analyst at ICIS, said by phone from Guangzhou. “From April onwards, refinery maintenance will also curb the nation’s imports.”

This interesting Bloomberg article appeared on their website at just after midnight Monday morning Denver time---and it's another news item I found embedded in yesterday's edition of the King Report.

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JPY Jumps After Abe Special Adviser Shows He Has No Shame Whatsoever

It appears being Special Adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe comes with great pressure to toe the line - as opposed to advise. Koichi Hamada yesterday said USDJPY 105 was "appropriate" and USDJPY 120 was "too weak"... that sent USD/JPY tumbling.

These comments were reiterated in the early Asia session and adding that he "doesn't think JPY will weaken much further."

We wake up this morning and Reuters reports that he has entirely flip-flopped his views saying now that "120 is appropriate," and that he " would not oppose further easing." It's clear someone got a tap on the shoulder...

You couldn't make this stuff up.  This Zero Hedge news story was posted on their Internet site at 8:15 a.m. EDT on Tuesday morning---and I thank Dan Lazicki for finding it for us.

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"The Business" does the Australian Housing Bubble

Australia Broadcasting Corporation's  "The Business" aired an interesting segment last night – the first of a 3-part series – looking at the Australian housing bubble, with a particular emphasis on Sydney.

The segment features Lindsay David, author of Australia Boom to Bust, along with SQM Research’s Louis Christopher and RMIT Emeritus Professor, Mike Berry.

Well, dear reader, from our own experiences here in North America, I'm sure we can let the good folks "down under" know how this housing bubble of theirs will eventually end, as we've seen it all before---and more than once.  The embedded 5:08 minute video clip appeared on the Internet site yesterday local time---and it's definitely worth watching if you have the interest.  I thank Australian reader Grahame Goodman for sending it our way.

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Gold or Fiat? That is the question -- Torgny Persson

What happens when you deposit money at the bank?

Most people don’t think much about it. The bank probably safekeeps the money in their vault. Then I can come to the bank to withdraw my money any time. Right?


When you deposit money at the bank, you immediately relinquish your ownership to that money.

The bank will not only loan out “your” money, they will use it as as reserves to loan out even more than what you deposited in the first place. The justification for this is simply that you probably won’t claim “your” money back any time soon anyways. If you were to claim it back together with only a few percent of the other depositors, the bank would go bankrupt.

This commentary appeared on the Singapore Internet site yesterday---and I thank Dan Lazicki for his final offering in today's column.

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Hedge funds double bullish gold price bets

Large scale speculators in gold futures continue to add to bets on a rising price even as the metal struggles to hold onto the $1,200 an ounce level.

On Monday gold for delivery in June – the most active futures contract – drifted lower from Friday's closing price hitting a low of $1,196.35 during late morning trade in New York.

Gold has recovered 4% from its 2015 low of $1,148.20 an ounce hit mid-March but has not been able to break through $1,220 an ounce resistance, stymied by a strong dollar.

After eight straight weeks of increasingly bearish positioning on the gold market to levels last seen December 2013, large investors like hedge funds or so-called "managed money" have now doubled their bullish positions within the space of two weeks.

This sort of commentary, although well meaning, is typical of the drivel that passes for serious analysis on the major precious metal websites these days.  As the Managed Money covers short positions---and goes long, it's JPMorgan et al on the other side of the trade---and capping the price that's the real news here, but these so-called "analysts" just won't go there.  This "story" appeared on the website on Monday---and should be read for entertainment purposes only.  I found it on the Sharps Pixley website very late last night Denver time.

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